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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.
My Attempt at a Balanced Perspective, Part 5
My main point is that these kind of peace negotiations should be taking place, and that all the Western countries should be advocating for them.
It has been nearly 9 months since I have written an essay about Ukraine/Russia. Within the first 6 months of Russia's invasion I wrote seven Ukraine/Russia essays, inclusive of a four-part series entitled "Ukraine/Russia: My Attempt at a Balanced Perspective" . But I am not alone on Integral World in having curtailed my writing about Ukraine/Russia. Out of the 38 Integral World Ukraine/Russia essays that Frank Visser has listed during the 14 month time period since the war began in February, 2022, 32 of these essays, which is over 84% of them, were published during the first 6 months of Russia's invasion . Thus I think it is high time that I convey my current thinking in regard to my attempt to find a balanced perspective on the war.
In my latest attempt at finding a balanced perspective, in one of my responsive comments to my article I summarized my frustration and difficulty at arriving at a firm conclusive stance, as I found myself going back and forth between the diametrically opposed perspectives of Joseph Dillard and Brad Reynolds :
“O.K. Brad, once again you are making a strong argument--and thank you bjm for the significant video link you sent about dealing with Putin. Yes Brad it is very concerning that following what Chomsky is advocating for and giving up land in Ukraine to end the war could have the effect of spurring Putin on to invade other countries. Then again, I think that it is very likely that he would not invade a NATO country because of the obvious repercussions against Russia that would follow. But allowing him to invade non-NATO countries is horrible, and I must agree that there is every reason to be concerned that he would do so. But then again, continuing to support Ukraine against Putin I am concerned could very well eventually lead to Putin deciding to use nuclear weapons. Perhaps as you say, this is just what needs to be risked and the bully must be stopped no matter the consequences. Trying to navigate between the perspectives of you and Dillard is tremendously challenging, and I must admit that I go back and forth reading what you each have to say. So I'll accept that at this point I have nothing more to say as I honestly don't know what I think about the situation. Thanks for your continued engagement with my essays and my comments.” 
So 9 months later, do I have anything more to say? Yes actually I do have something more to say. And this is that the war has now gone on for 14 months and the continuous killing appears to have become something that the world has gotten used to. Furthermore, I find the fact that Russia will likely be placing powerful strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus to be extremely alarming . But I don't want to reiterate the same back and forth issues that I have discussed in the previous parts of this balancing attempt series, both in my articles and the comments to my articles, in regard to such controversial aspects as the questionable status of democracy in Ukraine, the dangers of Russia attacking other countries, the “wrongness” of expecting Ukraine to give up any of their land to Russia, and the unethical previous practices of the West in countries throughout the world.. Rather, I would like to focus on the balancing attempts of a related book that came out in 2022, entitled War In Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, by Medea Benjamin & Nicolas Davies .
What I Found to be Most Relevant in War In Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict
I found the basic framework of this book to be supportive of my own attempt at a balanced perspective, with a good deal of very useful historical background information. The following is a condensed summary of the book's basic premise, taken from the first page of the book :
“Yes, Russia's aggression was reckless and, ultimately, indefensible. But the West's reneging on promises to halt eastward expansion of NATO in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union played a major part in prompting Putin to act. So did the U.S. involvement in the 2014 Ukraine coup and Ukraine's failure to implement the Minsk peace agreements. The result is a conflict that is increasingly difficult to resolve, one that could conceivably escalate into all-out war between the United States and Russia—the world's two leading nuclear powers.”
Integral World Ukraine/Russia article readers will undoubtedly recognize this basic premise as one that is similar to the main ideas conveyed by Joseph Dillard . But unlike Dillard, these authors were more careful to describe Russia's blameworthy role in initiating the war:
“Russia's invasion was illegal on many counts. It was not an act of self-defense and it was certainly not authorized by the United Nations. Under international law, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the UN charter, the invasion was an illegal crime of aggression.” (p. 80)
However, Benjamin and Davies repeatedly stressed their point that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked, and this is where their arguments look very much like those of Dillard, and which I do not want to go back and forth on. Rather, I want to once again focus on the very real dangers of Russia deciding to use nuclear weapons, and Benjamin and Davies reinforced the perspective of Noam Chomsky on these dangers, which they described as follows:
“Most Western predictions about whether Russia would use nuclear weapons are based on statements by Russian officials. But whether Russia is backed into a corner in which it would decide to use nuclear weapons also depends very much on Western policy. The policy that the West has so far pursued could exacerbate such a crisis for Russia. The determination of Western leaders like the U.K.'s Boris Johnson and some U.S. leaders to keep applying maximum pressure on Russia, while telling Ukraine's leaders not to negotiate with Putin, could put Russia's leaders in exactly the predicament we are describing and tip the balance towards a decision to use a tactical nuclear weapon.” (pp. 171-172)
Thus Benjamin and Davies are advocating for peaceful negotiations with Russia, as has Chomsky, and in most of my Ukraine/Russia essays I have voiced my agreement with this position as one that should accompany giving military assistance to Ukraine to put Ukraine in the strongest possible bargaining position with Russia . I fully understand the dangers of Russia concluding that their invasion worked in terms of keeping the land they took from Ukraine and adding more land, and there are no easy answers here. But Benjamin and Davies impactfully conveyed the dangers of the West continuing with their present policies toward Ukraine and Russia, as follows:
“On one hand, by encouraging Ukraine to reject talks with Russia, the West put Russia in precisely the spot that its doctrine on the use of tactical nuclear weapons was designed to address. . . . And on the other hand, this aggressive Western policy suggests that, if Russia actually used a tactical nuclear weapon, the same Western leaders who so eagerly pushed Russia into such a desperate position would then become even more opposed to negotiations—which would only make further nuclear escalation more likely.” (p. 172)
And I see the recent likely scenario of Russia deploying powerful strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus  to be indicative of the dire scenario that Benjamin and Davies has described as follows:
“As with this war and the crisis that led up to it, Russia is responsible and accountable for its own actions, which have violated the most fundamental principles of international law. But our leaders in the West are equally responsible for their actions and they, too, have acted irresponsibly and dangerously. . . . Could Putin really believe that Russia's very existence was under such immediate threat that invasion was the only answer? Could Western leaders really believe that Ukraine's right to join NATO and to reimpose its sovereignty over Donbas and Crimea were causes worthy of jeopardizing millions of lives or risking nuclear war? (pp. 174, 179)
In the last chapter of their book, entitled “How On Earth Will This End?”. Benjamin and Davies pull no punches in describing their perspective on who is most responsible for the continuation of the war:
“To their credit, the heads of state of France, Germany, and Italy consistently called for a negotiated end to the war and kept lines of communication open with Putin, while U.S., British and some Eastern European leaders were the most hard-core proponents of Ukraine's non-negotiable--although non-existent--territorial integrity. Provocative statements from Washington, such as President Biden's assertion that Putin “cannot remain in power” and Defense Secretary Austin's comment that Russia must be “weakened,” only made a return to serious negotiations more difficult, and were possibly spoken with exactly that purpose.” (p. 179)
I am in essential agreement with Benjamin and Davies in this regard, with the exception of their referring to Ukraine's territorial integrity as “non-existent.” But regardless of the merit and worthiness of Ukraine territorial integrity, I believe that the reality of continuing on the path that the West has been engaged in for 14 months can only lead to an eventual world disaster, as in World War III. I think Benjamin and Davies described this path very accurately:
“Despite suffering serious losses, the Russian military was still capable of inflicting horrific destruction on Ukraine, and Russia had invested too much in the invasion to simply give up. Without a peace agreement to end the war, both sides continued to endure immense losses and inflict immense damage. The results were catastrophic, and would only get worse. Westerners supporting endless shipments of weapons to Ukraine sincerely hoped to defend Ukrainian freedom and sovereignty. But calling on Ukrainians to keep fighting until they won a total victory over Russia and reclaimed Crimea and the Donbas could only lead to massive Ukrainian death and suffering, and an increasingly dangerous proxy war between nuclear superpowers that threatened the lives of everyone on Earth. . . . As hundreds of Ukrainians were killed every day, it was becoming increasingly urgent for Western states to reassess what they could possibly gain by fueling and prolonging a war that was gradually destroying Ukraine and must sooner or later end at the negotiating table.” (pp. 96, 180)
In conclusion, my position is the same as the one that I described the last time I wrote on this subject—9 months ago . But the stakes are much higher now, as this war has been going on for 14 months and the preliminary signs of Russia being ready to use tactical nuclear weapons are apparent . Is there truly no way that some kind of peace compromise agreement can be enacted, where Russia can save face sufficiently to justify ending the war and Ukraine can retain some degree of control and influence in their territories? Factors such as Ukraine agreeing to not join NATO, Ukraine accepting Russian as one of the official languages in the territories, diminishing the role of Ukraine's neo-nazi party, Ukraine being guaranteed their sovereignty along with having significant input in the governing of the territories, etc? My main point is that these kind of peace negotiations should be taking place, and that all the Western countries should be advocating for them. For me it is not a matter of “right and wrong” as much as it is a matter of the continuation of the human species. Yes we don't want to end up giving in to Russia to the extent that they think they can do to other countries what they did to Ukraine. But is there no middle-ground peace solution that is possible? I certainly hope that there is, as otherwise I fear that World War III is just around the corner.
After posting my essay on the Integral World site, Frank Visser sent me a critical review of Benjamin and Davies' book. I found this review to be stimulating and informative and refreshing in its informed presentation of a very different perspective from that of Benjamin and Davies. There are also a number of informed reviews of this book, both positive and negative, on Amazon.
The bottom line for me is that I fully realized that Benjamin and Davies' position was in many ways similar to that of Dillard's; as I acknowledged in the beginning of my essay, along with conveying that it was not my intention to debate the various issues that the book discussed. Rather, my focus was on the very real dangers of a nuclear holocaust if Russia feels like they are backed into a corner and have no other options to get out. I also acknowledged the dangers of peace negotiations resulting in Russia concluding that they could get away with invading other countries. But my main point was that I want to see peace negotiations being given a more central place than they have been, to accompany giving Ukraine military support, to put them in the strongest possible position to negotiate a workable peace settlement to end the war.
Notes and References
1) See Frank Visser (2022). Thoughts About the Ukraine Crisis: An Overview of Essays., www.integralworld.net
2) See Elliot Benjamin (2022). Ukraine'/Russia: My Attempt at a Balanced Perspective, Part 4: An ”Insane Experiment?”, www.integralworld.net
3) See Ivana Kottasova',Lindsay Isaace, & Anna chernova (2023). Lukashenko Says Putin Could Deploy More Powerful Russian Nuclear Weapons in Belarus, www.cnn.com, March 31 2023.
4) See Medea Benjamin & Nicolas J. S. Davies (2022). War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict. OR Books. Note that there is no relation between Medea Benjamin, who is one of the co-founders of the grass-roots peace organization Code Pink, and myself. All subsequent quotes in the present article are from this book.
5) David Finkel, Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict in Ukraine?, www.counterpunch.org, December 23, 2022.
6) Customer reviews, "War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict", www.amazon.com, (3.2 out of 5 stars)